By MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore. — In their inaugural home CONCACAF Champions League match, the Portland Timbers did not disappoint a home crowd, defeating C.D. Olimpia of Honduras, 4-2, Tuesday night at Providence Park.
Maxi Urruti led the way with two goals while Will Johnson and Rauwshan McKenzie also scored for the hosts in front of 16,238 fans. The visitors received first half goals from Kevin Alvarez and Romell Quoito, but it was not enough as the Timbers took over the lead in group five of the CCL.
In the middle of a heated Major League Soccer playoff race, head coach Caleb Porter fielded a completely different starting 11 from Portland’s 2-2 draw against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
“Having the depth we have allows us to get a result today and now we have some fresh bodies, some fresh options to use,” Porter said.
After a major blunder by Andrew Weber drew Olimpia even moments before halftime, the Timbers were able to break the deadlock when Will Johnson craftily looped a pass over Olimpia’s back line to spring Urruti. The Argentine striker then chipped the ball over an onrushing Valladares, before hammering the ball into the unmarked net.
It was the second goal of the night for Urruti and his club-leading 12th goal in all competitions. He also scored in Portland’s 4-1 romp over Guyanese side Alpha United in the club’s only other previous CCL match.
Rauwshan McKenzie put the final touch on Tuesday’s scoreline when he out-jumped two Olimpia defenders on a Gaston Fernandez corner kick before heading the ball past Valladares. The goal was McKenzie’s first goal in a competitive match in more than five years.
“Luck was on my side tonight,”McKenzie said. “I was actually talking to a friend earlier and said that ‘tonight’s my night’ and he said the same thing. Tonight was my night.”
Despite having played 28 Champions League matches in club history, C.D. Olimpia had little from the run-of-play and Portland used its home field advantage to control possession, finishing the match with with 89 percent passing accuracy.
“We deserved a win,” Porter said. “(We) scored four great goals, managed the game really well, which is always important in these type of matches.”
The Timbers would not have needed Urruti’s second goal if it wasn’t for Weber misplaying a free kick that saw Olimpia draw even in the 44th minute. Weber dropped a long range free kick onto the foot of an onrushing Quoto and could only watch as Quoto scored his first goal in Champions League play.
Quioto’s goal capped a four-goal first half that saw the Timbers twice take the lead, only to have the Honduran champions answer. Urruti put the Timbers ahead just 11 minutes into the match, beating Noel Valladares at his near post. The ball fell to Urruti after Johnson forced a turnover inside Olimpia’s penalty area.
Minutes after relinquishing the lead on a Alvarez header, Johnson had the answer. He found himself unmarked 25 yards from goal and unleashed a booming shot that Valladares was unable to keep out of the net, despite getting a hand on it.
Johnson, who sat out of Portland’s Saturday 2-2 draw with Colorado due to the birth of his son, Jaxx, was all over the field for the Timbers, delivering two assists to go along with his goal. Playing higher than usual at times, Johnson forced multiple turnovers, including the one that led directly to the first goal of the match.
Despite playing multiple matches in a one-week span, the Timbers seemed well-prepared for the Honduran side.
“We were really prepared to deal with them specifically as players,” said Fernandez, who won the Copa Libertadores while playing for Estudiantes in 2009. “We were able to control the game overall.”
Portland (2-0-0, 6 points in CCL play) finds itself at the top of group five while C.D. Olimpia (2-1-0, 6 points) falls behind the Timbers due to the head-to-head defeat. The next match in the group will be next Tuesday when the Timbers host the already-eliminated Alpha United (0-3-0, 0 points).
Fresh off the victory in the club’s first home match in their CCL history, the Timbers have a clear goal in mind.
“Our goal is to put ourselves in the quarterfinals next season, to give us a chance in the knockout stages to make a run, make some noise, and who knows?” Porter said. “Every MLS club’s dream is to be the first one to win it.”
Here are the match highlights: